Bees are the prominent pollinators and producers of honey and other medicinal products. They hold great cultural and environmental importance. The swarm of bees has a queen but do you know how is a queen bee born? Well, today we are going to know about queen bees, how the queen bee is born as well as how do bees choose a queen.
1. What are Bees?
Bees are winged insects known for their contribution to the production of honey and pollination. Bees belong to the lineage of the superfamily Apoidea and their natural group or clade is Anthophila. There are over 16,000 species of bees known in the world. Except for Antarctica, bees are found in almost every region on the earth. (See Why Do Bees Sting People?)
2. What is a Queen Bee?
The adult mated gyne (female) bee living in the colony of bees or the beehive is the queen bee. She is the mother of most of the bees or all the bees in the hive. They go through several larvae stages to reach maturity. (See What is a Group of Ants called?)
3. Which Bees live in Colonies, and Which live in Solitary?Photo by Ante Hamersmit on Unsplash
Just like different species of one animal do not exhibit the same behavior and habitats, similarly, all the species of bees do not live in colonies. The species that prefer solidarity are:
- Carpenter bees,
- Leaf cutter bees,
- Mason bees,
- Sweat bees, etc.
While some species of bees that prefer to live in colonies are:
- Honey bees,
- stingless bees, etc. Also, check out where do Pharaoh Ants live?
4. What do Bees feed on?
Food is an important factor in the process of how is a queen bee born. Nectar and pollen are the two main things that bees feed on. Nectar is the main source of their energy and pollen is the primary source of protein and other nutrients for them. They feed pollen to their larvae. (See What Animals Eat Wheat?)
5. How do Bees choose a Queen?
Any female larva has the chance of becoming the queen. The only difference between that larva and others is their diet. Usually, every bee hive has a queen bee but sometimes the worker bees sense that the present queen bee is sick or her pheromone (a chemical secreted and used by bees to manage the colony and interact with each other) levels decrease. The workers sense that they need a new queen bee, and they began to feed new larva to be their next queen.
Nurse bees are responsible for selecting 10 to 20 newly hatched larvae and feeding them royal jelly. It is a milky white protein-rich substance secreted from the hypopharynx of nurse bees. The royal jelly diet is strictly followed to turn on the reproductive system of the larvae. Once the queen is selected, she will be fed exclusively only royal jelly to make her sexually mature. She is kept in a queen cell, a specially constructed cell for the queen larva. It looks like a peanut. (See Where do Slugs and Snails live?)
6. How the Queen Bee is born?
How is a Queen Bee born? After being fed with royal jelly for about 8 days, the larva gets ready to metamorphize. This is the stage where the larva turns into a pupa. This is how is a queen bee born. The worker bees close the cell by capping it and the larva develops in it for about 15 days. After being in the cell for 15 to 17 days, the larva is completely transformed into the queen bee and is ready to come out. For this, she will chew out a hole in the cell either by herself or with the help of worker bees. (See 8 True Bumblebee Flying Facts)
7. What is Piping?Photo by Boba Jaglicic on Unsplash
After knowing how the queen bee is born, note that the worker bees were feeding 10-20 larvae to select the queen, so there are still some other born or pupate virgin queens in the hive. After the queen is born, she sends out a battle cry called piping to attract and challenge other queens in the hive. This is a life and death situation because every queen enters into a fight and ultimately only 1 survives. (See What does it Mean when a Monarch Butterfly Visits you?)
8. What is the Next Step after Piping?
The virgin queen that survived will fly out on a sunny day to mate with male drones (male bees). This is known as the mating flight. The Queen has to mate with about 12 to 15 drones from which she collects 6 million sperms in her spermatheca (an organ in the female insect’s reproductive tract). This mating mission will give her enough sperms to reproduce eggs for the next 3 to 5 years and in rare cases up to 7 years. (See Do Bees Have Ears?)
9. What is a Supercedure?
Supercedure is what happens after knowing how is a queen bee born. Supercedure is the process of killing the present old queen bee to take over the beehive. This process takes place after the new queen returns after mating. If the old queen is still in the hive and living her last moments, the new queen will kill her. But if the old queen flew away with a swarm, the new queen would announce her rule. (See Why does it Smell like Skunk in my House?)
10. What does a Queen do after Supercedure?
A well-fed and well-mated new queen will lay up to 1,500 eggs every day in the brooding cells. The Queen walks through the hive and looks into each brooding cell or chamber (house made by worker bees where the eggs, larvae, and pupae are placed and developed). If she finds an empty chamber, she will drop her abdomen into the chamber to lay an egg. (See Why Do Bugs Like Lights?)
11. Who are Attendants of the Queen?
As the queen moves through the hive, she is surrounded by a group of worker bees who look after her all the needs, like food, disposing of waste, spreading pheromone throughout the hive, etc. Spreading the pheromone is necessary to inform the other bees of the hive about the good and healthy life of the queen bee. After knowing about how is a queen bee born, note the fact that a queen bee can live for about 3 to 5 years only. (See What do Newts Eat in a Pond?)
12. What happens to the New Queen when her Death is nearing?Photo by Eric Ward on Unsplash
The process of how do bees choose a queen is repeated just the same as done with the old queen and her too. She will stay in the hive laying eggs, but her pheromone levels will decrease which will signal the worker bees to prepare new larvae for the next queen. Must read when is it safe to remove a wasp nest?
So, the process of how is a queen bee born begins again with the selection of larvae and a special meal of royal jelly. It is time to share this information about how the queen bee is born and how do bees choose a queen. It may help kids with their science assignments and projects too. (Also read Do Anteaters Eat Ants?)